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The C-Rating Smoke Screen Of Readiness Reporting
AUTHOR Major James H. Wilson, USMC
CSC 1988 
                      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I. Purpose:   To highlight current problems in the Status
of Resources and Training System (SORTS), and to
introduce a warfighting capability assessment approach
to measuring and reporting the capability of the Marine
Corps Air-Ground Task Forces.
II. Problem:  To show that C-ratings in the SORTS system
are not any indication of a unit's warfighting
capability, and that the Marine Corps needs to develop a
warfighting capability assessment methodology.
III. Data:  The Unit Status and Identity Report
(UNITREP) was changed to the Status of Resources and
Training System (SORTS).  The reason for this change was
because UNITREP did not measure combat readiness, nor
the ability to complete assigned tasks as it stated in
the definitions of each C-rating.  The SORTS system
C-ratings state that the unit has the ability to
undertake some portion of the wartime mission.  Such a
vague statement has little value.  However, the primary
reason that SORTS is flawed is that the baselines (T/O
and T/E) against which the units report, do not reflect
an accurate assessment of the requirements to win in
combat.  In order to determine a MAGTF's warfighting
capability the commander must assess the threat and
determine friendly forces required.  He must then
measure and evaluate synergistically the many factors
that will affect their unit's ability to win in battle.
IV. Conclusions:   The SORTS methodology is not a valid
indicator of military capability, nor of readiness.
v.  Recommendations:  The Marine Corps should review the
way it develops Tables of Organization and Equipment.
This review should insure that the T/O's and T/E's are
accurate and honest requirements based on the threat.
HQMC also needs to determine the requirement for a
warfighting capability assessment for the MAGTF
Thesis Statement: The Marine Corps must review the
baselines involved in status reporting, and develop a
warfighting capability evaluation that will complement
the SORTS system.
I.  Definition and Discussion of Terms
    A.  Readiness
    B.  Status
    C.  Warfighting Capability
        l.  Readiness
        2.  Sustainability
        3.  Modernization
        4.  Force Structure
II.  What Drives Status of Resources and Training?
     Systems (SORTS) Measurement
     A.  Personnel Reporting
     B.  Equipment Reporting
     C.  Training Reporting
III. Where does the Marine Corps go from here?
     A.  Change HQMC Perspectives on Reporting Status
         of Forces
     b.  Analyze Warfighting Capability at MAGTF Level
     "At 0622 on Sunday, 23 October (1983), at Beirut
Airport, a suicide terrorist drove a five-ton truck laden
with explosives into the lobby of the four story building
being used as a combination headquarters and billeting area
by Battalion Landing Team 1/8." (13:4)  Painfully, the rest is
     What happened?  BLT 1/8 was C-1 across the board. (7)  By
definition they were combat ready, but were they combat
capable?  A C-1 rating in UNITREP meant, "A unit possesses
its prescribed levels of wartime resources and is trained so
that it is capable of performing the wartime mission for
which it is organized, designed, or tasked."(18:6-3)
     What is combat capability, and is there a difference
between that and readiness?  Was the threat weighed into the
readiness assessment of the situation?  Was the changing
situation and the rules of engagement and even the mission
itself considered in the assessment?  Would it have made a
difference?  Maybe not, but the price is too high to allow
history to repeat itself.  The Marine Corps must review the
baselines involved in status reporting, and develop a
warfighting capability evaluation that will complement the
SORTS system. (8:2)
     What is capability, what is readiness, and what is this
new term called status, and is there a difference between
them?  Status is what is being measured today in the new
Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS).  This system
is not really new; it is the old UNITREP system with new
definitions under a new name.  Readiness is a subset of
military capability.  Readiness is also what was measured
under the old Unit Status and Identity Report (UNITREP).
UNITREP, and now SORTS are the only operational reports the
JCS has available to determine which unit or units might be
committed to an operation.  The decision could, in a fast
breaking situation, be based on the unit's C-ratings.  It is
a catch-22; a decision process that should be based solely on
a unit's warfighting capability, but is actually being based
on whether or not the service headquarters of that unit has
manned them at some percentage of the requirement.
     BLT 1/8's T/O was for eleven men per rifle squad. (7)
Why did that whole reduction from thirteen men per squad to
eleven per squad transpire?  Was it because the Marine Corps
sensed a decrease in the threat's capability, or was it
because the Marine Corps' structure was growing faster than
the end strength?  By changing the T/O of the infantry
battalions there was no dip in readiness reported in UNITREP,
but there certainly was a dip in the warfighting capability
of those units.
     A good portion of the units in the Marine Corps today
can say they are C-2 or better.  By SORTS definition that
means that the "unit possesses most of the resources and has
accomplished most of the training necessary to undertake bulk
portions of the wartime mission for which it is organized or
designed."(8:TAB A)  To undertake bulk portions of the
wartime mission means that you have the ability to begin, but
not necessarily the resources to sustain the effort to a
favorable conclusion.  In other words, a unit's C-rating
could be high, but its capability could be low.
     Before continuing it is important to understand
completely the difference between readiness, which will be
referred to henceforth as status, and military capability.
Military capability as defined in JCS Publication 1 is, "the
ability to achieve a specified wartime objective--for example
to win a battle or a war or destroy a target." (3:229)  It is
a very broad term which cannot be readily quantified, but
that has been broken down into four subsets or pillars:
     READINESS:  A unit's ability to deliver the
     output for which it was designed, in both
     peacetime and at the outset of hostilities.
     Readiness is measured in terms of manning,
     equipping, and training the force and is
     defined to include the force's ability to
     mobilize, deploy, and employ without
     unacceptable delay.
     SUSTAINABILITY:  The staying power of military
     forces, or how long the forces can continue to
     fight.  Sustainability involves the ability to
     resupply engaged forces during combat
     operations and is sometimes measured in terms
     of the estimated number of fighting days for
     which supplies are available.
     MODERNIZATION:  The technical sophistication
     of forces, units, weapon systems, and
     equipment.  Modernization can include new
     procurement and/or modification.
     FORCE STRUCTURE:  The numbers, size, and
     composition of units constituting the military
     forces.  Force Structure is usually described
     as numbers of divisions, ships, or air
     wings. (14:8)
     Armed with some knowledge as to the difference between
readiness and capability, what determines if a unit is combat
capable?  The C-rating should not be used; it is a smoke
screen.   If the unit is evaluated as combat capable, against
which threat was that evaluation made?  Certainly, a unit
cannot be equally ready for all contingencies, regions and
weather.  Neither can it be expected to be prepared for
varying intensity operations that range from peacekeeping
actions to high intensity conventional warfare, or threat
forces that range from terrorists and insurgents to Soviet
Armies. (12:15)  The point is, combat capability assessment is
a time consuming process that is more than a simple formula
that determines a percentage of fill against a HQMC approved
T/O or T/E.
     The following example should clarify the relationships.
If a squadron commanding officer rates twelve F-4 aircraft
and he has all twelve, he would report C-1 in the equipment
and supplies rating.  He would do the same if he rated twelve
F/A-18 aircraft and had all twelve.  The same holds true for
the equipment status rating which is determined by the number
of spare parts available to return either aircraft to an
operational status.  However, the readiness pillar discussed
previously goes even farther than does SORTS.  The readiness
pillar of military capability includes such additional items
as fuel and ordnance the aircraft would need to perform their
mission in the short term.  These items are not included in
SORTS reporting, but most certainly affect a unit's ability
to undertake a bulk of its wartime mission.  In fact, what
capability does an aircraft have if it can not be fueled or
armed, but by SORTS definition is still C-1?  A unit's status
(C-rating) that is measured in SORTS is but a small portion
of the readiness pillar which is only one-forth of military
capability.  It is an indicator, and does not measure a
unit's ability to accomplish combat missions, nor a unit's
warfighting capability. (6:36)
     Sustainability is the ability to make either aircraft
fly over an extended number of days by resupplying fuel,
ammunition, and spare parts among other items, from war
reserve stocks. Sustainability is not measured in SORTS
     Modernization is where the largest distinction between
the two aircraft exists.  The F/A-18 is a far superior
aircraft to the F-4.  It has a state-of-the-art weapons
system that performs equally well in the air-to-air, or
air-to-ground scenario.  To quantify that superiority over
the F-4 is the difficult part.
     The comparision of each aircraft by pillar shows that
only under the modernization pillar has there been any
significant improvement in warfighting capability.  Remember,
SORTS only measures a portion of the readiness pillar.  There
will be no increase reflected in SORTS due to this tremendous
investment.  More importantly, warfighting capability has
improved, but is not being reported.
     There has been significant improvements made in Marine
Corps' warfighting capability.  Unfortunately, it has not
been captured because of the difficulty associated with doing
that, and the methods that are currently in place.  It is
these methods and procedures that will be examined in this
     Personnel reporting in the SORTS system uses two
computations to derive the P-rating.  The first computation
is to divide available strength by structured strength.  The
second one is to divide military service-selected critical
MOS qualification of available strength by structured
strength of critical MOS's.  See TABLE 1. (18:A-15)
						C-1	C-2	C-3	C-4
A. Total Available Strength		>90%	>80%	>70%	<70%
B. MOS Fill					>85%	>75%	>65%	<65%
				TABLE 1.
     In order for the numbers derived from these formulas to
be meaningful, the baseline Tables of Organization (T/O) must
be what the unit's would require to successfully complete the
tasks assigned.
     How is a T/O generated?  It begins with a Marine Corps
force structure requirements study.  This study is a global
appraisal of the threat, national objectives, and military
strategy.  "The desired capabilities are then matched with
the existing capabilities to produce requirements for a force
structure." (19:2-3)  If the process stopped here, the Marine
Corps could build T/O's that would represent a baseline for
personnel measurement that was derived directly from the
     The force structure requirement then goes into Program
Objective Memorandum (POM) development, which is the process
where all requirements compete for funding.  "The Marine
Corps program depicts the force structure and allocation of
manning necessary to achieve an acceptable level of
     This means the manpower requirement is initially
determined without regard to cost.  It then competes against
all other programs in the POM process, and also against an
end strength ceiling.  Ultimately, the original requirement
becomes molded by fiscal constraint to an "acceptable level
of readiness," but is it an acceptable level of capability?
The wartime T/O's are then built from the constrained force
structure,  Unfortunately, the T/O's are not manned at 100%
of the reduced level.  A unit commander is now twice removed
from the threat related required number of personnel.
Another consideration is the Fleet Assistance Program (FAP),
TAD, non-deployables, and detachments.  SORTS reporting lets
most of those either be structured out, or counted.  By doing
so it does not affect the unit C-rating, but it does affect
the unit's capability.
     Equipment reporting in SORTS has two of the four
resource area ratings associated with it.  The first rating
is equipment and supplies on-hand (S-rating).  The S-rating
is determined by the lower result of two computations.  The
first computation is the total selected combat-essential
equipment (CEE) possessed divided by the prescribed wartime
requirement.(18:A-15)  Combat-essential equipment is defined
as mission-essential equipment of such importance to the
completion of a specific unit's mission that it needs
continuous monitoring and management at all levels of
command. (20:2)  The second computation is the total military
service-selected end items possessed divided by prescribed
wartime requirements. (18:A-15)  See TABLE 2.
						C-1	C-2	C-3	C-4
A. Combat-essential equipment		>90%	>80%	>65%	<65%
   Aircraft					>90%	>80%	>60%	<60%
B. End item					>90%	>80%	>65%	<65%
				TABLE 2.
     The second equipment rating (R-rating) centers around
the operational status of that equipment.  The equipment
status rating also has two computations.  The first one is
the total military service selected combat-essential
equipment possessed in an operational status divided by
prescribed wartime requirements.  The second computation is
major service-selected end items of equipment possessed in an
operational status divided by the prescribed wartime
requirement. (18: A-15)  See TABLE 3.
						C-1	C-2	C-3	C-4	
A. CEE in operational status		>90%	>70%	>60%	<60%
   Aircraft					>75%	>60%	>50%	<50%
B. End items operational		>90%	>70%	>60%	<60%
				TABLE 3.
     The equipment ratings reflected in SORTS are the lower
of the C-ratings determined from either line A or B from the
appropriate preceding Table.  The guidelines for the
determination of the ratings are the unit's Table of
Equipment, the Marine Corps Bulletin 3000, and the unit's
monthly Marine Corps Automated Readiness Evaluation System
(MARES) report.
     The MCBul 3000, "is not intended to be a complete list
of all the mission-essential equipment contained in the
Marine Corps inventory."(20:2)  However, the items selected
are considered to be sufficiently representative to provide
an adequate measure of equipment status in the operating
forces. (20:2)
     If the MCBul 3000 is in fact a representative sample,
should 41% of the items listed be Alpha TAM numbers?  These
TAM numbers are radios and communications equipment.  Also,
shouldn't there be more than ten different ground equipment
items that are considered combat-essential equipment? (20:2)
Those ten items are the howitzers, AAV's, and tanks.
Additional items to consider would be LAV's, Tow launchers,
Dragon trackers, Hawk launchers, and 81mm mortars.  All of
which are included in the JCS major equipment files, and
supposed to be reported as CEE. (7)
     The purpose of bringing out MARES reporting procedures
and reviewing them is because they directly affect the S and
R-ratings a unit reports.  For example, if a LAAM or LAV
Battalion has all its MARES reportable equipment
operationally ready except for its missile launchers or
LAV's, it could have 80% of its end items in an up status and
thus be reporting a C-2 rating.   In that situation those
units are not combat capable.
     The training rating, except for flying squadrons, is the
most subjective resource area to be evaluated.  A ground
unit's training status is determined by the weeks of training
required for the unit to be fully trained to accomplish its
mission. (18:6-7)  To do that properly a commander must know
the scenario and the threat which is not always possible and
in fact, is very unlikely that it would ever happen.  The
commander can evaluate his unit against the most demanding
operation plan which it would be forced to face.  From that
evaluation the commander could then determine the number of
additional weeks required to train.  See TABLE 4. (18:A-16)
						C-1	C-2	C-3	C-4	
A. Weeks of training required		<2	>2<4	>4<6	>6
B. Percent ready aircrews		>85%	>70%	>55%	<55%
				TABLE 4
     What is really needed is a standardized guide for the
commander to evaluate where he is in his training cycle.
That guide exists, in the Marine Corps Combat Readiness and
Evaluation System (MCCRES).  The purpose of MCCRES is to,
"provide Fleet Marine Force commanders with a comprehensive
set of mission performance standards from which training
programs can be developed, and through which the efficiency
and effectiveness of training programs will be
evaluated." (16:1)  If a commander uses the MCCRES standards
to determine where his unit is in the training cycle, he can
then determine how many additional weeks of training it will
take to bring his unit up to a C-1 status.  MCCRES should be
used to assist a commander in determining weaknesses, and to
aid in developing progressive training programs prior to
deployment. (10: 1)
     What if anything can the Marine Corps do to evaluate
warfighting capability, and get away from a "bean count"
status that means very little to anyone?  One possible
process involves the three step approach listed below:
     1.  Change HQMC perspectives on reporting status,
     and highlight warfighting capability.
     2.  Analyze warfighting capability at the MAGTF
     3.  Finalize and standardize the measurements
     against which the MAGTF's report warfighting
     The first step of this approach will be the most
difficult.  The reason is because each department at HQMC
that has an interest in status reporting would have to focus
on warfighting capability of the total force.  This would
best be accomplished by the establishment of a MAGTF
warfighting capability assessment section within the Combat
Development Command.  This section would be responsible for
the coordination and review of all the systems, Marine Corps
orders, and Marine Corps Bulletins that influence the SORTS
system.  Again, the focus of change in these systems is to
develop a warfighting capability assessment methodology.
Tables of Organization and Tables of Equipment will have to
be reviewed for accuracy, with the threat as the driving
force and not fiscal constraints.
     The Marine Corps Bulletin 3000 must be reviewed to
determine if the equipment listed is a representative sample
of the inventory.  The combat-essential equipment list should
also be reviewed to determine if it encompasses all the
equipment that is in fact combat-essential.
     Step two, the actual warfighting assessment, can proceed
concurrently with step one.  The assessment will be reported
through the current SORTS system using RM3 remarks cards, but
will only be done by the MAGTF headquarters.  The real
capability of the Marine Corps is in the air-ground team,
which is what must be captured.
     How should this proceed?  First would be to educate the
field commanders as to the objective of such an evaluation;
which is to capture as closely as possible the warfighting
capability of the MAGTF.
     Each MEF commander would first identify what he
considers to be his most demanding operation plan.  Once that
plan is identified the MEF commander must analyze the threat,
its capabilities, and its limitations.  From that analysis
the commander must determine what friendly forces he would
need to defeat that threat.  He should not consider the
forces available because those forces might not be sufficient
to complete the mission.  The whole purpose of the analysis
is to determine what is needed to win the war.  In the
analysis all friendly forces that are available are utilized.
     When the friendly force list is completed the MEF
commander will have a list of units necessary to defeat his
portion of the threat.  That list hopefully will not be much
larger or smaller than the actual forces available.  If it is
the delta between available and required forces is a
statement of warfighting capability, and should be commented
on in the next report.  After the force list is prepared the
commander collects data that will be given to subordinate
commanders on the following items:
     1.  Threat forces and capability.
     2.  Friendly forces and capability.
     3.  Strategic sea and airlift.
     4.  PWR stockage of critical items, or items in
     short supply.  Determine if any are war stoppers.
     5.  Terrain and weather in the area of operations
     and how it affects the mission and training
     6.  Personnel and equipment attrition factors.
     Determine days of effectivness and when resupply of
     people and equipment must be available to maintain
     warfighting capability.
     7.  Consumption and movement rates of supplies
     (measure of battlefield CSS).
     8.  Maintenance tasks and repair times for major
     items.  Determine in days how long these items can
     operate without resupply.
     9.  Sustainability assets available by classes of
     supply.  Determing operating days without resupply.
     Emphasis should be on class I, III, V, and VIII.
     10. Determine proposed theater resupply schedules.
     11. Determine unit rotations and AFOE arrival and
     if follow-on forces are to be employed.
     12. Analyze personnel-fatigue as a factor.
     13. Determine how much additional training will be
     required to operate the force in the environment.
     14. Analyze combat leadership in key billets.
     15. Analyze morale of the the force in combat
     simulated exercises.
     This list is certainly not all encompassing, and in many
cases it requires a judgment to be made by the commander.
     Once the information has been gathered the MEF commander
develops a concept of operations, and then briefs his
subordinate commanders.  These are the Division, Wing, FSSG,
MEB, and MEU commanders.  This is not just a briefing but is
also the point that the MEF commander will distribute to each
subordinate commander the assets for planning purposes that
each will have for his particular portion of the operation.
     Each subordinate commander will also be allocated a
portion of the total threat based on where in the concept of
operations his units will be employed.  Coordination between
the aviation and ground combat elements of the MEF and MEB is
critical at this stage so as not to double count units or
     The MEB and MEU commanders must then determine their
force requirements, and allocate resources in much the same
way as the MEF commander before them.  The MEB commander then
will develop his concept and brief his subordinate group,
regiment, and BSSG commanders.
     The concept continues down to the squadron and battalion
levels, not for reporting purposes but to allow the
commanders who will execute the plan to see it, see the
assets allocated, and to comment on it.  This approach will
also allow the squadron and battalion commanders to see the
areas that they might need to spend a little more time on in
their training programs.
     The next phase is the reporting process where each MAGTF
headquarters will report a warfighting capability rating
(criteria to be determined) on a SORTS RM3 card for each area
of the analysis.  The commanders should also identify the
operation plan number upon which the reports are based.
     When the reports go from the MEB to the MEF, the MEF
commander will analyze but not interfere with the report.  If
the MEF commander feels it is necessary he could comment on
any assistance that would be provided to subordinate commands
to aid them in their mission.  The MEF commander would also
submit his report of warfighting capability through the SORTS
     Step three of the process is the finalization and
standardization of the areas to be evaluated by the MAGTF.
This step is extremely important if this type of an approach
is used because each reporting unit has to be reporting, for
standardization purposes, on the same areas.
     This approach to measuring warfighting capability is
intended to be useful at all levels.  It is a very time
consuming process initially, but one that would be reported
on exception only after the initial reporting period.  It is
also a system that involves the entire staff of a reporting
headquarters.  SORTS does not involve intelligence, or
logistics, or sustainability.  A commander can not accurately
assess his warfighting capability by leaving those areas out.
     Warfighting capability is what will win the next
engagement, and not a C-rating.  It takes the right forces,
the  right  equipment, the  right  training, and the ability to
sustain and resupply those forces in battle.  The time is now
for the Marine Corps to develop a warfighting capability
assessment, that field commanders can use in the financially
troubled times ahead to inform the decision-makers as to the
impact on the warfighting capability of the force.
1.   Barzil, Zeev et al.  "Assessing Marine Corps
       Readiness."  Defense Management Journal. 1st
       Quarter (1981), 25-29.
2.   Bergmann II, Walter B.  "Integrating Personnel and
       Materiel Readiness. " Defense Management Journal
       1st Quarter (1981), 8-13.
3.   Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.  JCS
       Pub. 1, Washington, D.C., June 1, 1987.
4.   Fleet Marine Force Equipment Readiness (Ground
       Forces).  Naval Audit Service Western Region,
       September 4, 1986.
5.   Gelli, Thomas J.  "The Daily Demands of
       Readiness-An interview with Charles W. Groover,
       Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
       (Requirements Resources, and Analysis)." Defense
       Management Journal, 1st Quarter (1981), 3-7.
6.   Golub, Abraham.  "The AMORE Answer to the
       Ready-or-Not Question."  Defense Management
       Journal, 1st Quarter (1981), 31-37.
7.   Mason, Steven, Maj. , USMC, Ground Readiness Analyst,
       HQMC.  Personal interview about Marine Corps
       Readiness Reporting.  Washington, D.C., March 3,
 8.  Measurement and Reporting of Marine Corps Readiness.
       Plans Policies and Operations Department R/S,
       Washington, D.C., January 1988.
 9.  Military Capability Reporting.  Report by
       the J-3 to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Memorandum
       of Policy No. 172).  July 8, 1986.
10.  New Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation System 
       (MCCRES).  CMC Washington, D.C., msg dtd 091932Z
       December 1987.
11.  Preparedness Evaluation System/CINC's Annual
       Situation Report.  JCS Washington, D.C., msg dtd
       072059Z October 1987.
12.  Shisko, Robert, and Robert M. Paulson.  "Resource
       Readiness in Theory and Practice."  Defense
       Management Journal, 1st Quarter (1981), 14-19.
13. "The Week of 23 October"-News.  Marine Corps
       Gazette, 67:12 (December 1983), 4-5.
14.  U.S  General Accounting Office.  Report to the
       Chairman on Armed Services House of
       Representatives.   Measuring Military
       Capability-Progress,  Problems, and Future
       Direction.  February 1986.
15.  U.S. General Accounting Office.  Report to the
       Honorable Sam Nunn Ranking Minority Member
       Committee on Armed Services United States Senate.
       Measures of Military Capability:    A Discussion of
       Their Merits,  Limitations,  and Interrelationships.
       June 13,1985.
16.  U.S. Marine Corps Order 3501.1A. Combat Readiness
       and Evaluation System:  MCCRES.  Washington, D.C.,
       November 21, 1986.
17.  U.S. Marine Corps, HQ Order 5320.14.  Marine Corps
       Tables  of Organization;  Procedures for Processing
       and Maintaining.  Washington, D.C., March 24,
18.  U.S. Marine Corps Order P3000.13A.   Marine Corps
       Unit Status and Identity Report  (UNITREP)  Standard
       Operating Procedures.  Washington, D.C., May 11,
19.  U.S. Marine Corps, HQ Order 5400.20.   Programmed
       Force Structure Management.  Washington, D.C. June
       26, 1985.
20.  U.S. Marine Corps Bulletin 3000.    Table of Marine
       Corps Automated Readiness Evaluation System
       (MARES).  Washington, D.C., September 8, 1987.
21.  U.S. Marine Corps Order P4400.39.   War Reserve
       Policy Manual.  Washington, D.C., January 27,
22.  U.S. Marine Corps Order 5320.13.  Wartime Table of
       Organization Management Procedures.   Washington,
       D.C., March 28, 198

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